Welcome to This Week in Bigotry, the show that highlights the dark side of the American spirit. We take you now to Washington, D.C., where the Conservative Political Action Conference – best known as CPAC – is gearing up for the annual bash that begins tomorrow. For decades CPAC has attracted thousands of grassroots right-wingers, as well as the nation’s most prominent conservative organizations, and this week’s event is certainly no exception…No, wait, let me amend that. The 2011 CPAC will be staged without the participation of some of the nation’s most prominent conservative organizations. The list of boycotters includes the Heritage Foundation (one of the most venerable think tanks on the right), the Family Research Council (one of the top social conservative outfits), Liberty Counsel (part of the Jerry Falwell empire), Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association, and the Media Research Center.The reason for the boycott: One of CPAC’s sponsors is a group called GOProud. Its members are gay.So now you see the problem. Those big shot conservative organizations certainly wouldn’t want to share the same ballroom with gay people, for Pete’s sake. Better to stay home than compromise their bigotry. As Bryan Fischer, a talk-show host who’s affiliated with the American Family Association, declared yesterday, “CPAC now supports the radical homosexual agenda,” it has legitimized “the deviancy cabal,” it has soiled its purity by inviting a gay group that, by definition, poses “a menace to human and social health” and promotes “sexual abnormality.”(By the way, conservative power broker Jim DeMint, the South Carolina senator, is boycotting this year’s CPAC as well. According to the official explanation, he is not in any way trying to send his own message of bigotry. Rather, he is boycotting in support of the groups that are sending a message of bigotry. No doubt you see the distinction.)This ruckus was predictable, given what happened at the 2010 confab. GOProud was also permitted to attend that event – the gay group, now two years old, shares the economic conservative principles of low taxes and small government – whereupon the movement’s bigotry wingnuts went nuts. Apparently it doesn’t take much to flush them out. One of them, Ryan Sorba of the California Young Americans for Freedom, ranted on stage for the C-Span cameras, thereby embarrassing the conservative movement on national TV: “Just to change the subject for just a second, I’d like to condemn CPAC for bringing GOPride (he got the name wrong) to this event…Natural rights are grounded in human nature. Human nature is a rational substance in relationships. The intelligible end of the reproductive act is reproduction. Do you understand that?” Meanwhile, the crowd was booing – not out of support for GOProud, but reportedly because Sorba was airing the issue publicly. Sorba proceeded to diss the catcallers by conjuring the worst insult he could think of: “The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do! The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do! All right? Bring it.”Anyway, the upside of all this is that CPAC, to its credit, seems perfectly comfortable with having, as a co-sponsor, an economic conservative group that happens to be gay. Nor does it seem to bother the prospective presidential candidates (including Mitt Romney, Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum) who are slated to appear late this week.What this episode exposes, however, are the intrinsic tensions within the conservative movement, and the ongoing debate over the proper balance of moral and fiscal issues. The Family Research Council, for instance, believes that the movement is increasingly giving short shrift to the morality dimension; it views CPAC’s inclusion of GOProud as merely the latest slide toward decadence. But others on the right have been arguing for more tolerance toward gays, citing recent remarks by the offspring of John McCain and George W. Bush. And as GOProud spokesman Jimmy La Salvia points out, “Our position on marriage is exactly the same as former Vice President Dick Cheney’s” – namely, that each state should be free to determine its own policy.Even Sarah Palin thinks that the inclusion of a gay group at CPAC is no big deal. She said so in an interview the other day, although you may need to hack through her verbiage with a machete in order to get the gist:”Perhaps what it is that you’re suggesting in the question is, should the GOP, should conservatives not reach out to others, not participate in events or forums that perhaps arising within those forums are issues that maybe we don’t personally agree with? And I say no. It’s like you being on a panel, shoot, with a bunch of the liberal folks whom you have been on and you provide good information and balance, and you allow for healthy debate, which is needed in order for people to gather information and make up their own minds about issues. I look at participation in an event like CPAC or any other event along kind of in that same vein, as the more information that people have the better.”Her message of tolerance was sufficiently clear to Bryan Fischer, the aforementioned radio host with ties to the American Family Association. He groused that Palin “simply does not understand the danger that homosexual activism represents to the family, the institution of marriage, the education of our children, and constitutional freedom of religion, speech, press, and association.” He warned that Palin appears to be sending “uncertain signals on moral issues,” thus imperiling her political strength.So there you have it: To the unbowed intolerant wing of the conservative movement, even Sarah Palin appears to be a gay-coddling liberal. Join us again, undoubtedly soon, for another episode of This Week in Bigotry.